This is an edited version of my Remembrance Day message from Luke 20:27-38 at St. Michael’s C of E on the White City Estate.
On my first trip to Europe many years ago, one of the questions I was asked over and over by elderly people that I met, was “Did you father or grandfather fight in World War II?” My father and grandfather did not, but I did have great uncles who did fight here in Europe. War is a nasty business. And for those who live through it, their minds are scarred by the realities of life and death.
Death comes to all of us and for those of us alive, death plays a significant role in our lives. For many, our first experience with death is our grandparents. Then we start seeing our peers pass on and then our parents. This is normal – but if we live through tragedy or war, then death is thrown into our face in a way that we don’t often like to think about. But think about death we must. We can’t escape death and every culture asks the question, “What happens to us after we die?”
The Jewish people during Jesus’ day were just like everyone else in this regard. In Luke 20, we see that there was differing opinions on what happens after death. The Sadducees, mention in verse 27, where a sect of priests who denied the resurrection. These Sadducees present Jesus with a riddle. They wanted to test him – to see if he was logical enough to understand the sophisticated reasoning of their arguments against the resurrection.
Now there is a law in the Old Testament (Deut 25) which states that if a man dies without a son, then his brother should take his wife and if a son is born, then that little boy would carry the name of the dead brother. In this way, the family line would not die out.
But apparently this was not practised very much in ancient Israel so the fact that the Sadducees riddle contains seven brothers who die after being married to this one woman is even more theoretical and absurd then we might have thought.
In Matthew, we read the same story and Jesus’ remarks are expanded. He says in Matthew 22, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”
Jesus tells these teachers, “You’re just pretending to want answers, when in reality you don’t know the Bible, which God gave us to let us know about Himself AND you don’t even know anything about God himself.” Questions are good. But don’t let your questions become a barrier to faith by searching for answers which absurd theoretical questions.
Jesus answers the Sadducees question in a round-about-way. Yes – there will be a resurrection, but no, this woman would not be married to any of the seven brothers.
Notice, Jesus’ summary statement in verse 38. He’s giving these Sadducees his final point – the thing he wants them and us to remember from this encounter – “Now he (God) is not the God of the dead but of the living.” God is a God of life. This is an essential characteristic of who God is. He is the author of life and he brings life to those who are in a relationship with him. A connection with our Creator God make us more alive, while a disconnection leads to death.
But we are disconnected aren’t we? Death is the ultimate disconnect. Death tears us away from all that we know and love. This was not the way it was to be, but because of our rebellion against our creator, death came into the world. And now death reigns – there is no avoiding it – we are all going to die.
But God is working to make all things new – not only new but better. In verses 35 and 36, Jesus says there will be a resurrection and after this there won’t be any more need for marriage. Marriage is the best human relationship we have on earth. Many testify to this. But we also know that marriage is difficult and even the best marriages have struggles.
I don’t understand it but after the resurrection, our relationships with God and with each other will be enhanced to such a degree that we won’t need marriage. Every relationship will be exactly as God intended – there will be no more tears, no more emotional breakups, no more fighting. Death and all that leads to death – wars, arguments, pride, arrogance will be no more.
Where do we get this hope that death will end? Notice here in verse 35, that Jesus says that it’s not everyone who will attain this resurrection to new life but only those “who are considered worthy”. But when I’m honest, I am not worthy of new life with God and neither are any of you. Death came into this world because of rebellion and we still rebel against our Creator God. Our marriages are in trouble because we’re selfish. We have anger in our hearts towards those around us. Even on the big picture, we see wars and terrorism and all kinds of evil every day on TV.
But there is one who is worthy to be resurrected. Jesus lived that perfect life and died a horrible death on a cross. But that was not the end. On the 3rd day, the women came to the tomb and found it empty. Jesus was resurrected – death is not the end. This wasn’t just a theoretical question – Jesus rose from the dead 2,000 years ago in real history. And the bible says that his resurrection is the “first fruits” of new life.
And by Jesus’ resurrection we can have hope that we do can have new life if our faith is in him. Jesus says here that only those who are worthy can have hope for life after death. The apostle Paul writes about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. He wraps up this section with this statement: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is by being united to Jesus by faith that we can have the victory over death. Come to him today. Repent of your rebellion, humble yourself at the feet of Jesus and gain hope – hope for your own resurrection.